Byrum, NJ 07874
- Cost: $$
- Alcohol: Full Bar
- Parking: Private Lot
July 13, 2011
British food is hard to find in New Jersey. Fish and chips can be had in various forms at Irish pubs and elsewhere. There are a few explicitly British spots scattered around the Garden State serving savory pies, scones and bangers and mash. “Gastropubs” serving high quality, creative and locally sourced British food are unheard of in this former colony.
Modeled after London’s The Eagle and April Bloomfield’s Spotted Pig, New Jersey’s “first gastropub” offers “a laid-back atmosphere with food that’s taken seriously,” according to owners Bradley and Laurie Boyle. The menu isn’t predominantly British, but Salt Gastropub combines food, drink and atmosphere for a unique spot that successfully captures the gastro spirit, if not the cuisine.
Summer camp is our annual opportunity to visit Sussex County in Northwestern New Jersey. Byram – the “Township of Lakes” – is home to Salt. You might drive right by the unassuming pale blue building on Route 206 South if you’re not looking for it. Deceptively plain looking from the outside (look for the bicycle hanging from the sign), step inside to find a comfortable bar and dining room that gives the “pub” vibe an American twist.
Food and drink get equal billing at Salt. We were most impressed by Salt’s extensive beer list, with plenty of interesting brews on tap, and PBR all the time. After a sampling, we enjoyed the Cricket Hill Jersey Summer Breakfast Ale (Fairfield, NJ) and Great Divide Colette Farmhouse Ale (Colorado). Bottles range from Ayinger Brauweiss (Germany) to Rogue Dead Guy (Oregon).
The food menu, as eclectic as the decor, includes Balbriggan Salmon, a Fish Taco, Bangers and Mash, Risotto and a Guinness creme brulee.
Winners for us are the Goat (cheese) Croquettes appetizer, delicious with a raspberry balsamic reduction, and the risotto of the day, a creamy rosemary risotto with chicken and portobello mushrooms. The fish and chips, tilapia when we visited, is decent, but a far cry from the flaky battered haddock or cod served on malt vinegar-soaked London newspapers. The Salt burger – pub style served with Guinness braised onions on the side – is a good burger but not spectacular. The fish taco, essentially fish taco ingredients on a plate, is disappointing. (For an excellent, constructed, fish taco, I would head to Hoboken.) Ironically, the dishes we tried all could have used more salt.
Overall, the beer is excellent and the food is above average with some distinctive options. Service is very friendly and there’s live music on weekends. It ain’t modern British cuisine, but Salt Gastropub puts out solid food in a mellow setting with cool people. Definitely worth a visit or a short detour north of Route 80.